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Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Citizenship & Immigration Status

Definitions and Resources

What is Immigration Status?

U.S. Immigration Status

"Immigration status refers to the way in which a person is present in the United States. Everyone has an immigration status."

Some of the most common types are:

  • Citizen (born or naturalized)
  • Legal Permanent Resident/Green Card Holder
  • Conditional Permanent Resident
  • Refugee or Asylum-Seeker
  • Nonimmigrant (those with visa for temporary stays, such as students or temporary workers)
  • Person with Temporary Protected Status ("for nationals of countries whose conditions prevent people from returning home safely (due to natural disasters, civil strife, or other extraordinary conditions)");
  • Undocumented Person (those who overstayed their visas or entered without papers)

Excepted from "What is Immigration Status?" (n.d.). National Latino Network.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), "Any person not a citizen or national of the United States" is considered noncitizen or alien.

"Glossary." (n.d.). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Citizenship "is membership—membership in a country or state, along with an associated set of rights, privileges, expectations, and responsibilities that are equal to all other persons who are members of the country or state. . . . Citizenship is based on any number of factors, including religious affiliations, political ideals, ethnicity, culture, geographical location, and race. . . In America, citizenship has been especially troublesome in that it initially relied heavily on race as a determinative factor."

Citizenship is usually granted through:

  • Descent;
  • Birth within a Territory; or
  • Naturalization

"What one actually gains as a citizen is a bundle of benefits and rights that each citizen has or has access to. Sometimes this bundle is split and one receives some of the benefits and rights of citizenship but not others."

Kuhlenberg, K. A. (2013). Citizenship. In Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, edited by Patrick L. Mason, 2nd ed., vol. 1, pp. 397-401. Gale eBooks,

Nativism refers to "the political idea that people who were born in a country are more important than immigrants (= people who have come to live in the country from somewhere else)."

(n.d.). Nativism. In Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus. Cambridge University Press.

"The term 'nativist' was originally coined in the mid-nineteenth century to describe Americans who opposed demographic change in what was then a predominantly white, Anglo-Protestant nation. Nativists of this era were particularly concerned about immigration from Ireland because it was increasing the Catholic population of the United States. Nativists today believe that true national identity requires a particular racial, ethnic, or religious background. As in the past, they frequently focus on immigration policy as a means of shaping national demographics in ways that reinforce this idealized national identity."

Kleinfeld, R., * Dickas, J. (5 March 2020). Resisting the Call of Nativism: What U.S. Political Parties Can Learn from Other Democracies. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Citizenship & Immigration Status: A Reading List

Undocumented Ally Training

By learning how to support our undocumented students, you can help create a welcoming campus and encourage cultural and intellectual diversity at NIU.
Sessions are offered each semester. You'll learn about:
  • State and federal legislation that affects undocumented students.
  • Educational, economic and psychological challenges faced by undocumented students.
  • Campus and community resources that support undocumented students and improve their educational experience.
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Videos on Citizenship & Immigration Status